by Christopher Allen
Pete? Mick here. There’s a slight problem on the motorway, right. Dunno really. You’re leaving already? You can’t— Right, right. Awfully sorry— He hangs up, doesn’t say good-bye, like he knew I’d fuck up. He offered me a week’s work to help get me back on the horse. Not like winning the lottery, but I really needed a leg up. Thing is, I was already late when I got on the motorway. I’m a bloody cock-up stuck behind the crash of the century. Everyone’s going bankrupt, you know. Not just me. The sun rises, and lorry drivers get out one by one to pee in front of God and everyone. I can’t go in front of people, not even in a crisis. I sit for hours and watch a hundred gulls mill around on a pitch like they’ve forgotten how to play the game. When I can’t hold it any longer, I wet myself just as the announcer says it’s going to be a warm, sunny day.
Traffic on I75 slows to a standstill. I flip on my hazard lights and smile at the pastel blue horizon at the moment a rapper on 94.5 FM patters darkening sky. The irony expands when she says prosperity like Ed McMahon if he shouted “Vito, you’ve just won a million dollars!”—which would only start to pay the hospital bills. She doesn’t mention the hospital in North Carolina where I’ll die—exorbitantly. If we’d been uninsured, Father State would have paid; but I’m rich, so Hal, a person I never should have married, will lose it all. Instead, she weighs down the air with unspeakableness. And fades. The announcer says it’ll take until noon to recover the bodies and that today will be bright and sunny. I miss the rapper, but she knows where I’m going, and she’ll be there waiting. Like a friend; like a virus. Like gulls on a playing field, waiting for instinct to go viral, waiting for something to scare them into flight.
I’ve researched radiation fog, so I know this morning is the perfect dawn. Classic radio plays Bolero as I drive 190 into a wall of white. There was fog on the A19 the morning Anna ended in metal and fire. I wasn’t there; I was in Hamburg cheating on her for the first and last time. An announcer says there’s been a Massenkarambolage on the A19 and the day will be sunny and mild. I’m startled by a man shouting Schalte das Radio aus, verdammt nochmals! and a sudden crisis of saws. I try to reach the radio, but I’m pinned horizontal, eyes on a playing field where an army of angels is dropping from a ceiling of fog. I try to stay and watch, but I’m already ceding to abstraction.
Christopher Allen‘s work has appeared in many places both off- and online. In 2011, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a finalist at Glimmer Train. Allen splits his time between Germany and the UK, where he spends most of his time walking along the Thames and eating very spicy Indian food. He blogs at www.imustbeoff.com